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Civil War Days return next month to Curtin Village

PHOTO BY KATE COLLINS/ITHACA JOURNAL Reenactors march during last year’s Civil War Days.

HOWARD — For those who have fathers keen on Civil War history, worries about the right gift for Father’s Day are over.

Making a comeback since its revival last year, Civil War Days will be held at Curtin Village at Eagle Ironworks, 251 Curtin Village Road, Howard, on Saturday and Sunday, June 16 and 17. The free event will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

While the event is free of charge to the public, donations will be accepted, with food available for purchase. Tours of Curtin Village will be given for a small fee.

“These are people who love to talk history, love to talk Civil War, that have spent many hours acquiring the knowledge that they have, and in a lot of cases, thousands of dollars acquiring the equipment that they have, to share with people,” said Gary Hoover, event coordinator and executive director of the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a great educational experience, and it will be something for the family to do.”

Hoover himself has always been a Civil War history buff, and since 1994, he has been a reenactor with Thompson’s Independent Battery C. In partnership with the Roland Curtin Foundation, BIACC helped bring back Civil War Days, an event that was last held at Curtin Village in the mid-1990s.

Some highlights of this year’s Civil War Days are an encampment with Civil War reenactors, artillery and infantry weapon demonstrations, period craft demonstrations, children’s activities, and a review of the troops by “Gov. Andrew Gregg Curtin.” Curtin will be portrayed by Hank Curtin Spencer, who is the great-great-grandson of Gov. Curtin, according to Hoover.

Among the period craft demonstrators will be a tinsmith and a cobbler. Hoover said there will also be an exhibit, “Centre County in the Civil War,” brought in by the Centre County Historical Society. The Sons and Daughters of Union Veterans will be on hand with interesting historical displays that will include original Civil War weapons, Hoover added.

Another attraction will be period dance demonstrations that people are welcome to join in on, Hoover said. The demonstrations will be led by Centre Squares and will include dances such as the Virginia Reel.

Children’s activities, which Hoover said will be expanded this year, include “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Game of Graces,” spinning tops, yo-yos, and pick-up sticks. For those unfamiliar with these period games, Hoover explained “Game of Graces” is played with two sticks and children pass a hoop back and forth, while “Jacob’s Ladder” is like an early version of the Rubik’s Cube.

“You get a feel of what some of the games and activities the children had during that time,” Hoover said.

Not only is the event a great way to learn about history, but it is a great time to help take part in the historic preservation and revitalization of Curtin Village.

“With the event, we hope we can make a little bit of money to support the Curtin historic site,” Hoover said. “It was the last waterwheel-powered cold blast charcoal-fueled iron furnace in the United States to close in 1921, so it basically has national significance as well as being one of the best preserved examples of what the early iron industry looked like in this part of Pennsylvania.”

The iron industry played a big role in the Centre Region, Hoover added. A lot of early development in the area was due to the industry, especially development of local transportation systems, agriculture and mining.

“We want to continue the legacy of the iron industry in Centre County,” said Gloria Briggs, president of the Roland Curtin Foundation. “Since Curtin Village represents that, we’re trying to bring it back to be a more active historic site.”

Established in 1810, Curtin Village had been part of a large iron plantation, which Roland Curtin and his family operated through 1921. Since then, the site has been preserved for visitors and features several historical sights, such as the waterwheel-powered Pleasant Furnace, the Curtin Family Mansion and a workers’ village. In recent years, the site has gone through a lot of restoration and repair work to have it open more often to visitors and events such as Civil War Days.

For more information about Civil War Days, contact Gary Hoover at biacc@bellefontechamber.org. By the end of May, a schedule of events will be made available online at www.curtinvillage.com.

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